I really like South Dakota. I wouldn’t stay here if I didn’t.
But Governor Kristi Noem’s latest ad campaign to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to lure Minnesota businesses who don’t like having to protect public health demonstrates that my home state’s business-über-alles attitude has turned truly pathological:
In her press release on this horrible pitch, Governor Noem says she’s after out-of-state business who’ve “become more and more frustrated with overreach by their state governments,” but everybody understands that she’s talking about government responses to coronavirus and urging people to move to places that don’t take community action to save lives. Her economic development chief Steve Westra drops the thin coyness and makes explicit our official antipathy to government efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus and our Ferengi preference for profit:
Right now Governor Noem is unquestionably our biggest marketing tool. The national exposure she has received for how South Dakota handled COVID-19 really resonates with business owners [Governor’s Office of Economic Development Commissioner Steve Westra, press release, 2020.07.16].
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz responds with gentle dismissal and empirical data:
“The idea we’re going to pit one another (against each other) and we’re going to take this COVID situation as a reason to start (moving) business, I don’t think it’s a good sell,” Walz said. “I think people will stay in Minnesota.”
Walz touted Minnesota’s heftier testing capacity, noting Minnesota has a lower per capita rate of infections than South Dakota. As of Thursday, South Dakota had a higher rate of confirmed infections, at 858 per 100,000 people. Minnesota, meanwhile, reported a rate of confirmed infections of 769 per 100,000 people. South Dakota reported a substantially lower death rate from COVID-19 compared to Minnesota [Dana Ferguson, “Gov. Kristi Noem Aims to Lure Virus-Weary Minnesota Businesses with Ad Campaign,” Worthington Globe, 2020.07.16].
Governor Walz’s economic development chief Steve Grove says Minnesota’s good government and good economy speak for themselves:
In a telephone interview Thursday, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development commissioner Steve Grove defended the state’s coronavirus mitigation efforts, saying they struck a balance between public health needs and economic concerns. He pointed to the state’s low rate of poverty, high rate of business survival and the number of Fortune 500 companies in Minnesota as evidence of it being hospitable to business.
“We are a state that prizes our talent, that prizes business growth and that companies flock to to grow, and I think we don’t need an ad campaign to remind Minnesotans of that,” Grove said. “It’s just the truth” [Ferguson, 2020.07.16].
In a way, Governor Noem is only continuing the anti-Minnesota anarcho-capitalist hogwash of every Republican South Dakota governor of our lifetimes. That hogwash is sour grapes, because it has yet to result in South Dakota’s economy outperforming that of the People’s Republic of Minnesota:
The handful of Minnesotans who would watch Kristi Noem peep Freedom™ on YouTube and say, “Hey, South Dakota takes coronavirus less seriously! Let’s move there!” are the last people are the last people we want to recruit for economic development. They’re likely not the Minnesotans getting those additional college degrees, inventing more medical devices, attracting more venture capital, building more Fortune 500 companies, and producing more exports and GDP and wages. They’re probably not the Minnesotans reading the above data or the scientific research on coronavirus and making evidence-based decisions about where and how to do business. They’re just the ones whose reckless, selfish behavior will drive our coronavirus rates even higher than Minnesota’s (870 per 100K pop here, 786 per 100K in Minnesota) and ensure that we keep electing vain and venal figurehead rodeo queens instead of smart civic-minded policymakers. South Dakota’s pathology feeds itself.
Minnesota doesn’t have to spend $369,500 on YouTube videos to get 6.4 times as many people to pick Minnesota over South Dakota. They probably don’t mind that Kristi Noem siphons off their dipsticks and leaves those who recognize the unspoken but obvious slogan: Minnesota—make more money, live longer to enjoy it.